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Sustainable Development: A Holistic Approach to Meeting Our Needs

1. Introduction

The end of the XX century displayed very serious issues in the development of human society, in terms of the situation with environment, policy, economy, etc. These problems could not be solved within the frames of traditional approaches and required a new vision of development, which would become a response to the challenges of that time. The concept of sustainable development was firstly introduced in 1987 by United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development in its report “Our Common Future”.

2. What is sustainable development?

The World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In simple words, it is a kind of development that does not harm the environment or natural resources and does not make them unavailable for future generations.

Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life. While poverty eradication is an essential requirement for sustainable development, it must go hand-in-hand with efforts to improve living standards and protect ecosystems (Commission on Sustainable Development, 2002). The ultimate goal of sustainable development is to make sure that human activities do not lead to the long-term deterioration of the natural environment and resource base essential to support these activities (WCED, 1987).

3. Analysis of the notion of sustainable development

The term “sustainable development” has been used by different people in different ways. Some use it as a synonym for “environmental protection”, while others see it only as economic growth or social equity. In fact, sustainable development implies taking into account all three components: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection (OECD, 2001).

There are three different but interconnected elements to any definition of sustainable development:

– environmental sustainability,
– economic sustainability,
– social sustainability.

Environmental sustainability means using renewable resources at a rate that does not exceed their capacity for regeneration and avoiding pollution so that ecosystem services are maintained (WWF, 2014). Renewable resources include solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, biomass, and hydropower (NRDC, 2014). Nonrenewable resources—such as coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium—cannot be replenished once they have been used up (NRDC, 2014). To achieve environmental sustainability we need to reduce our reliance on nonrenewable resources and increase our use of renewable energy sources. Additionally, we need to find ways to use resources more efficiently and reduce wastefulness (WWF, 2014).

Economic sustainability means maintaining or improving economic growth while protecting the environment so that current and future generations can enjoy higher standards of living (OECD, 2001). For this to happen we need to develop policies that encourage businesses to invest in clean technologies and renewable energy sources (WWF, 2014). We also need to put a price on carbon emissions so that businesses take into account the costs of pollution when making investment decisions (WWF, 2014). In other words, we need to make sure that the economy grows in a way that is environmentally sustainable.
Social sustainability means ensuring that all people have access to the resources they need for a good quality of life, now and in the future (OECD, 2001). This includes ensuring that everyone has access to basic services like education, healthcare, and clean water (UNESCO, 2014). It also includes protecting people’s rights, promoting social inclusion, and providing safety nets for the most vulnerable (OECD, 2001). In other words, social sustainability means making sure that economic growth benefits all members of society.

4. What are the problems with sustainable development?

The challenges to sustainable development are many and varied. They include poverty, inequality, resource depletion, environmental degradation, climate change, and social exclusion. Tackling these challenges requires a holistic approach that takes into account all three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social, and environmental (UNESCO, 2014).

One of the biggest challenges is getting businesses to invest in clean technologies and renewable energy sources. This requires putting a price on carbon emissions so that businesses take into account the costs of pollution when making investment decisions (WWF, 2014). Another challenge is making sure that everyone has access to basic services like education, healthcare, and clean water (UNESCO, 2014). This requires protecting people’s rights, promoting social inclusion, and providing safety nets for the most vulnerable (OECD, 2001).

5. Conclusion

Sustainable development is a complex challenge that requires a holistic approach. It is not just about environmental protection or economic growth; it is about finding ways to meet our needs without harming the environment or compromising the ability of future generations to do the same. This requires a shift in thinking—from linear systems to systems thinking—so that we can see the world as a complex web of interconnected parts (WWF, 2014). Only then can we hope to find solutions that are truly sustainable.

FAQ

The notion of sustainable development is based on the idea that we need to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

The definition of sustainable development has changed over time as our understanding of the environmental and social challenges we face has grown.

Key stakeholders in promoting sustainable development include governments, businesses, civil society organizations, and individuals.

Some of the challenges associated with achieving sustainable development include poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation.

Policies and initiatives that have been put in place to promote sustainable development include Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals, and Sustainable Development Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable .

Our responsibility in ensuring that future generations can enjoy a good quality of life is to make sure that we adopt sustainable practices in our daily lives and work towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations

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